Friday, July 1, 2011

DVD Reviews

Crosby, Stills and Nash- Daylight Again:
This concert, recorded in 1982, shows the trio in fine, energetic form before the ravages of age and excess took their inevitable toll. Some excellent arrangements of many of their classic tunes, including a masterful performance of “Suite: Judy Blue Eyes” which has to be a very difficult song to perform live.

Geoffrey Rush is perfectly cast as the Marquis de Sade, a man who literally couldn’t survive if denied the opportunity to write his provocative prose, considered obscene at the time, and which landed him in an insane asylum. The superb supporting cast is complemented by one of the best screenplays I’ve seen in quite a while.

Burma VJ:
This documentary show videos, with supporting narration, shot by Burmese journalists risking their lives documenting the Burmese military’s oppression within their country. At the time these videos were shot, all outside media was banned from the country and these journalists bravely filmed rallies and protests and smuggled the videos out of the country.

Classic Albums- The Doors:
Another fine disc in this series looks at the making of the Door’s debut album, a groundbreaking masterpiece. Interviews with surviving band members reveals how fortunate writer/vocalist Jim Morrison was to team with up with the perfect musicians to complement his poetry. It also exposes Ray Manzarek as not only a brilliant, keyboardist, but also an outstanding story teller.

Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band: London Calling- Live in Hyde Park:
This 2009 concert disc finds The Boss at age 60 continuing to wow audiences. Springsteen can still put himself totally into every number performed, though he now may get a little fatigued at times. He makes up for it by being a mature, masterful entertainer in complete control of his audience. Every track on this disc is wonderful, but it’s worth viewing just to listen to Nils Lofgren’s soaring guitar solo on “Youngstown.”

Muddy Waters- Can’t Be Satisfied:
This hour long documentary covers the life of the Godfather of the Blues- particularly, electric blues. Many interviews with family members, band mates, and music journalists tell the story of one of the premier blues influences on the next generation’s rock and roll bands.

True Grit:
You can count on the Coen Brothers to create an entertaining remake of the classic 1960’s film. As with most all their films you will enjoy memorable, well defined characters and salty, witty dialogue.

The Other Guys:
Any time I see that a comedy is two hours long, I don’t hold out much hope that it will be funny from beginning to end. That’s just too long a time to sustain a comedic edge for most stories. That includes this film, done in the absurd vein of comedy. A few good laughs but not enough of them throughout to keep you satisfied. This movie is a cop/buddy story but that requires a natural chemistry between the two actors. That chemistry just doesn’t seem to be there between Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlburg.
Not recommended

This 2002 drama, based on a true story, stars Pierce Brosnan in the lead role. Brosnan is an unemployed father in 1950’s Ireland, who loses his children to the state/church monolith after his wife abandons the family. With help from sympathetic attorneys, he fights this tyranny against seemingly overwhelming odds. A wonderful, inspiring, well written story that should be viewed by all.

American- The Bill Hicks Story:
A worthwhile documentary about the trailblazing comedian whose life was cut short by cancer. The film includes lots of interviews with his supportive family and large stable of comedian friends who knew him best. Looking back on his commentary about life in the world during that time, you can see he was spot on in his analysis. It’s a shame he isn’t around now to expose the absurdities of today's world.

Front Line- Black Money:
This 2009 Frontline programs looks at bribery among international corporations and the government they do business with. Several different viewpoints are presented but all miss the fact that states exist to benefit the few at the expense of the many and bribery is just one of the tools to accomplish this.

Bruce Springsteen- Live in Dublin:
This is a collection of several performances recorded in 2006. Instead of backing by the E Street Band, Springsteen is accompanied by a large collection of wonderful musicians called The Sessions Band which includes a dynamite horn section. The music is in the Americana vein of country, folk, Dixieland jazz and gospel. Tunes include several traditional numbers as well as rearrangements of Springsteen songs. All in all, a very delightful performance.

The Company Men:
This drama follows several different characters after they lose their longtime professional careers after a corporate downsizing. Each character takes a different path in dealing with the disappointment and resulting difficulties.

Mao’s Last Dancer:
This is based on a the true story of Li Cunxin who, during the 1970’s and 80’s, developed into one of China’s greatest ballet dancers. He then travels to the US where he eventually defects. A very passionate story that will have you teary eyed by the end of it.

Wartorn- 1861-2010:
This HBO documentary looks at the history of battle fatigue and PTSD throughout the history of the United States' numerous wars. The subject matter is depressing but the individual stories told are riveting and informative. What’s depressing is the panel discussion where military bureaucrats brag about all the wonderful new ideas and programs they have in mind to treat and even prevent this aliment. Nowhere do you hear the truth that fighting wars is not natural for the human organism and a more rational approach is to simply stop participating.

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